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Debt-to-Income Ratio Influences You: Here’s Why It’s Important

bradleys Updated: February 5, 2024 • 6 min read
debt to income ratio

Debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is how much debt you’re carrying relative to your income. In particular, it compares your monthly debt expenses against your monthly gross income (before taxes). This ratio shows how much of your income is “claimed” by your debts.

What Is the Debt-to-Income (DTI) Ratio?

The Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio is a financial measure that compares an individual's monthly debt payments to their monthly gross income. It's a key indicator that lenders use to assess an individual's ability to manage monthly payments and repay debts. The DTI ratio is expressed as a percentage and is calculated by dividing total monthly debt payments by gross monthly income.

Components of DTI Ratio:

  1. Monthly Debt Payments: This includes payments for loans such as mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit card debt, and any other fixed monthly obligations.
  2. Gross Monthly Income: The total income earned before taxes and other deductions.


DTI Ratio=(Total Monthly Debt Payments/Gross Monthly Income)×100

Debt to Income Ratio Formula

How to Calculate Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Calculating your Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio involves comparing your monthly debt payments to your total monthly gross income. Here’s how you can calculate it step by step:

  1. Calculate Your Monthly Debt Payments:
    • Add up all your monthly debt obligations. This can include:
    • Mortgage or rent payments
    • Minimum credit card payments
    • Car loan payments
    • Student loan payments
    • Personal loan payments
    • Any other debts that require monthly payments (alimony, child support, etc.)
  2. Determine Your Monthly Gross Income:
    • Calculate your total monthly income before taxes and other deductions.
    • Include all sources of income, such as:
      • Salary or wages (before taxes)
      • Bonuses or commissions
      • Self-employment income
      • Rental income
      • Investment income
      • Alimony or child support received
      • Any other regular, documented income
  3. Divide Your Total Monthly Debt by Your Total Monthly Gross Income:
    • Use the formula:
      DTI Ratio=(Total Monthly Debt Payments/Total Monthly Gross Income)×100
      This will give you a percentage that represents your DTI ratio.

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Let’s look at an example.

Say your rent is $1,000, your car payment is $300, you have a $200 student loan payment, and you pay $100 monthly on credit cards. That’s $1,600 of debt for debt-to-income purposes.

Now, imagine your salary is your only source of income. You earn $60,000 per year.

Divide $60,000 by 12 to arrive at a $5,000 gross monthly income.

From there, divide $1,600 (your monthly debt payments) by $5,000 to get 0.32.

Finally, multiply 0.32 by 100 to arrive at a debt-to-income ratio of 32%. In other words, you have to put 32% of your total income towards debt every month.

Now that you know how to calculate your debt-to-income ratio, let’s explore why you should keep an eye on it.

What is Considered a Good Debt-to-Income Ratio?

A good debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is typically low enough to indicate a healthy balance between debt and income. Generally, lenders and financial experts use specific benchmarks to evaluate the acceptability of a DTI ratio:

  1. 36% or Less: This is often considered an ideal DTI ratio. It suggests that a manageable portion of your income goes towards debt, leaving enough room for other expenses. A DTI ratio of 36% or lower is usually preferred by lenders, especially for mortgage applications.
  2. Below 28% for Housing Debt: Lenders often look at the front-end DTI ratio, which only considers housing-related debts (like mortgage payments) when buying a home. A ratio below 28% here is viewed favorably, implying that housing costs are not overly burdensome compared to your income.
  3. 37% to 42%: This range is considered acceptable but approaching a limit where debt levels might become concerning. Borrowers in this range may still qualify for loans, but lenders might scrutinize their financial situation more closely.
  4. 43%: This is often the highest DTI ratio that borrowers can have and still get a Qualified Mortgage, a type of loan that has stable features to make it more likely you can afford your loan. Beyond this threshold, you might find it challenging to secure a mortgage.
  5. Above 43%: DTI ratios higher than 43% are generally considered high and might indicate that you are over-leveraged. It can be more difficult to obtain new credit, and financial advisers usually recommend reducing debt levels if your DTI ratio falls into this range.

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Why Is Debt-to-Income Ratio Important?

The Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio is important for several reasons, primarily in the context of financial health and lending decisions:

  1. Lending Decisions: Lenders use the DTI ratio as a key metric to assess a borrower's ability to repay a loan. A lower DTI ratio indicates that a borrower has a good balance between debt and income, making them less risky and more likely to get approved for loans, including mortgages, car loans, and personal loans.
  2. Loan Terms: A lower DTI ratio can also influence the terms of a loan. Borrowers with lower DTI ratios may qualify for loans with lower interest rates and better terms because they are perceived as less likely to default.
  3. Financial Health Indicator: The DTI ratio clearly indicates an individual's financial health. It helps individuals understand how much of their income is towards paying off debt and whether they are over-leveraged. A high DTI ratio can signal financial stress and the need for better debt management.
  4. Budgeting and Financial Planning: Understanding your DTI ratio can aid in budgeting and financial planning. It can help you make informed decisions about new debt and managing existing debt. It also encourages proactive measures to increase income or decrease debt, creating a more balanced and sustainable financial situation.
  5. Preventing Over-Indebtedness: You can avoid becoming over-indebted by monitoring your DTI ratio. This is crucial for maintaining financial stability, as over-indebtedness can lead to missed payments, defaults, and long-term credit damage.

Quick Tips to Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

Reducing your Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio is crucial for improving your financial health and ability to borrow money when needed. Here are some strategies to lower your DTI ratio:

  1. Increase Your Income:
    • Seek opportunities for a raise or promotion at your current job.
    • Consider taking on a part-time job or freelance work to supplement your income.
    • Explore passive income streams, such as rental income or investments.
  2. Pay Down Debt:
    • Focus on paying off high-interest debts first (the avalanche method) or tackle small debts for quick wins (the snowball method).
    • Make more than the minimum payments on your debts when possible.
    • Avoid taking on new debt until your current debts are under control.
  3. Refinance or Consolidate Debt:
    • Consider refinancing high-interest loans to lower interest rates and monthly payments.
    • Consolidate multiple debts into a single loan with a lower interest rate, making it easier to manage and pay down.
  4. Budget and Cut Expenses:
    • Create a budget to track and manage your spending.
    • Identify and cut unnecessary expenses, such as dining out, subscriptions, or luxury items.
    • Redirect the money saved from reduced expenses towards paying down debt.
  5. Avoid Taking on New Debt:
    • Postpone large purchases that would require taking on new debt.
    • Use cash or a debit card instead of credit for purchases to prevent increasing your debt.
  6. Monitor and Adjust Your Financial Habits:
    • Regularly review your budget and spending habits.
    • Adjust your financial plan as needed to ensure you're making progress toward reducing your debt.

Does Your DTI Affect Your Credit Score?

Your Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio does not directly affect your credit score. Credit scoring models, like those used by FICO and VantageScore, do not consider your income or DTI ratio when calculating your credit score. Instead, they focus on your payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, new credit, and types of credit used.

However, while your DTI ratio doesn't impact your credit score directly, lenders consider it an important measure alongside your credit score when making lending decisions. A high DTI ratio can indicate that you may have trouble managing your monthly payments and may be at a higher risk of defaulting on a loan. This can make lenders hesitant to extend credit, even if you have a good credit score.

Keep an Eye on Your DTI

Your debt-to-income ratio plays a critical role in buying a home or getting a better mortgage rate. More importantly, however, it’s an excellent financial health indicator.

Sure, you might have a healthy salary, but income doesn’t matter when most of it goes towards debt payments and interest.

Make sure to keep tabs on your debt-to-income ratio and pay down debt when you notice it creeping up. Your future self will thank you.

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Written by bradleys linkedin-icon

Bradley Schnitzer is a copywriter and content writer with massive experience writing for financial websites. He helps businesses gain loyal customers through informative content pieces and persuasive copy. With his extensive knowledge in the field, Bradley is passionate about personal finance and dedicated to helping budding freelancers further their careers. In his free time, he enjoys reading, hitting the gym, pursuing several intellectual interests, and of course, drinking coffee.